“At nearly 23% of CPG unit sales across retail channels today, private label products certainly have momentum and command a sizeable share of consumers’ CPG spending,” commented John McIndoe, senior vice president of marketing for SymphonyIRI. “However, this momentum is not demonstrated equally across channels, retailers, departments or categories. This means there is room for private label and national brand manufacturers to capitalize on opportunities. The key for both camps is to center their efforts on the shopper. Those that effectively identify and deliver against critical shopper needs will win share of wallet and shopper loyalty.”
SymphonyIRI found that while retailers across channels are working to strengthen their private label programs, performance at the channel level varies rather markedly. Today, private label share is largest within the grocery channel, but within the grocery channel, private label share of sales slid 0.6 points during the past year. Within the drug channel, private label share of sales fell sharply during the past year. Some of these declines occurred in health-related categories, with share of vitamins and internal analgesics falling by 3.2 points and 4.4 points, respectively.
But the news isn’t all bad, according to Susan Viamari, editor of Times & Trends for SymphonyIRI. The vitamin category, she said, saw 6% unit share growth during 2010, which made it one of the 10 fastest growing categories of the year.
“Virtually all of 2010’s fastest-growing categories are illustrative of consumers’ stepped-up at-home and from-home eating rituals,” Ms. Viamari explained. “A notable exception to this is the vitamins category, which experienced unit sales growth of 5.7% for the year, well above the industry average of 1.2%.”
She went on to add that the vitamin category has been a standout throughout much of the economic downturn. “Certainly, this category plays a vital role in helping consumers achieve health and wellness goals. And, during the past several years, maintaining a state of wellness has been a central means of saving money for many consumers.”
Innovations in vitamin formulations have been a primary contributor to the segment’s growth. “Sundown Naturals, for instance, was one of the top-selling new non-food products of 2009,” noted Ms. Viamari. “Targeted products, such as Centrum Men’s and One-A-Day Menopause, have also served to drive category growth.”
The report found private label volume share to be 54%, down less than 1% since 2008. Average price per volume slid 1% during 2010, due largely to promotional activity. Vitamins volume sold with feature-only support increased by 3.4 points in 2010. Percent volume sold with any merchandising (FDMx) during 2010 increased 4.1 points, making vitamins one of the categories seeing the largest jump in merchandising support for the year.
“Both manufacturers and retailers know that private label is not a panacea,” said Ms. Viamari. “Private label products remain, on average, 29% lower priced than national brands. Remove that price advantage and dollar and unit sales could plummet. In fact, the shrinking private label price gap very likely contributed to some of the private label share losses experienced during the past year. Going forward, private label products are subject to the same commodity price increase pressures as national brands, so establishing and maintaining effective pricing and promotion strategies should be top of mind for every CPG marketer in the marketplace today.”
While organizing the market data for its report, SymphonyIRI also discovered some helpful tips for manufacturers seeking to develop effective private label mitigation strategies.
For starters, it’s beneficial to identify and assess brand-specific opportunities and risks with respect to private label. “Monitor price gaps between their brands and private label alternatives to ensure an optimal price gap is maintained; understand private label performance across key categories; leverage value-oriented pricing and promotion programs to protect and grow share,” SymphonyIRI suggested.
The group also found it helpful for companies to refine their private label competitive strategies. “Maintain solid understanding of price/value perceptions across key consumer segments; invest in innovation that will bring differentiation to the marketplace,” it suggested, and added, “Measure and monitor actual versus planned impact of brand related initiatives [by] testing new product concepts before embarking on development plans; track and benchmark store-level shifts relative to private label among key retail partners.”
A careful assessment of store brand opportunities and threats is another key consideration. “Tailor store brand offerings at the market level; support private label lines with consumer-centric and highly integrated marketing campaigns, including in-store display and feature ad support,” the company stated. “Evaluate feasibility of multi-tier offerings across key categories/product lines, either alone or in partnership with national brand manufacturer partners.”
And finally, SymphonyIRI advised manufacturers to measure and monitor actual versus planned impact of private label related initiatives. “Test market product, pricing and promotion changes prior to and immediately following roll out; track and benchmark store-level store brand share shifts relative to national brands,” it said.
For more information about SymphonyIRI’s free report, “Private Label: Brand Positioning in the New World Order,” follow this link.